Back to study in your 30s and 40s

What you need to consider if you are going back to study in your 30s and 40s.

So you’re feeling settled – the kids are at school, you’re paying off your home loan and you have a steady job. But then you decide you want more of a challenge – maybe returning to study to finally finish that dream degree, further your career or just to keep your mental stimulation up.

You’re not alone. Statistics tell us that over 3 million people (around 1 in 5) aged 15 to 64 years in Australia were enrolled in formal study in May 20161. And while two-thirds of these students are aged between 15 to 24 years, 1 in 3 are mature age students who are pursuing some form of education to help them achieve their goals.

And considering the average person will make a career change 5 to 7 times in their working life2, it’s worth looking at what’s involved if you decide to study later in life: from choosing the right course, to managing your time and funding it. So here are some things to think about.

What’s right for you?

First you will need to decide what you want to achieve and what courses and institutions can help you to get there. If you are keen to tackle a university degree make sure you explore what pathways are available on their website or through course finder.

If you don’t want to deep dive into a full blown degree but still want to achieve a qualification, then TAFE might be a good option for many careers.

What if you don’t want to go to university or TAFE but still want to hone your skills or learn a new one? Professional colleges offer training and accreditation locally or online to help you into courses from marketing and real estate to design and beauty.

Time management

You will also need to consider how much time you want to devote to your study.

For example, if you are working and time poor, consider doing an accelerated course or study part-time or studying by distance education. Some institutions will grant credits for similar subjects that you may have completed in the past.

What about money?

Funding your study can be critical in choosing what path you will take. If you can't afford to pay upfront, you may be able to receive some support. Here are some options that might suit your situation:

  • Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) is a loan scheme available to Australian citizens or certain visa types that can help alleviate the up-front costs of higher or vocational education and training. You will need to pay this back so it’s important to do your research on which loan is right for you. Read our article to find out about how much it costs to go to University.
  • Austudy is Government funded financial help to full-time students or apprentices who are aged over 25 years.

It’s also important to think of how you’ll manage your money. For example, if you’ll be taking time off to pursue your studies, think about how not having a regular income will affect your finances and your super balance.

And what the financial benefits or impacts will be for you. Will furthering your study result in a higher paying job? Or will you be working longer to pay off your study debts?

Other things to consider:

  • Go to an orientation day – you’ll get the opportunity to meet teachers, potential peers and current students who could offer insights you wouldn’t normally get from reading the website.
  • Don’t get thrown off by your age – remember that you’re all “equal” in class regardless of your age or experience.
  • Get writing help – if you’re not used to it or haven’t done it in years, it might pay to attend a short course or find a mentor to help you.
  • Set up a space free of distractions – if you’re studying at home, in a library or in the office, make sure you find a place where you won’t get distracted (including by your family).
  • Be realistic about your time commitments – you’re the only person responsible for your education, so it’s up to you to make sure you make time for it and stick to your goal! 

Need more help?

Learn more on our career and education section on Q&AMP. Or use our budget planner calculator to help you work out your finances.

Or, if you need financial advice on funding your studies while meeting your future commitments, call us on 131 267 or use our online tool to find an adviser.

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.